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Franklin flips tax lawsuit on resident

A Franklin resident who is the plaintiff in an illegal taxation lawsuit is now a defendant as well.

Ronald Fratrick sued the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District and the Milwaukee Sewerage Commission in February, claiming he and other Franklin residents are included illegally in the district’s taxing jurisdiction. He listed Franklin as an involuntary plaintiff, alleging the city’s permission to tax the residents was required but never obtained by MMSD.

He filed the class-action suit on behalf of other Franklin property owners Feb. 6.

Fratrick’s West Oakwood Road home has a septic system. He has said he will never connect to the sewer system, but he is being charged to help MMSD buy an interceptor sewer the city recently built. In February, he said he paid $1,160 in sewer system taxes over two years.

But MMSD argues Fratrick’s land and the hundreds of other properties he claims to be exempt are, in fact, not.

Those properties are legally included in the taxing district because of an intergovernmental cooperation agreement with Franklin, according to MMSD’s answer to Fratrick’s complaint. Furthermore, the Ryan Creek interceptor is “intended to provide service to the Plaintiffs’ properties,” according to the answer.

A central question in the case is whether Franklin consented to MMSD taxing all city residents.

According to court documents, Fratrick claims the city never gave that consent, MMSD claims the city did, and Franklin claims whether it consented is a question a judge should decide.

MMSD and the commission allege the taxes are legal, according to court documents, and that they are immune from Fratrick’s claims under state statute.

The city filed a cross-claim against Fratrick and the other, unnamed class members, declaring the city also is immune from Fratrick’s claims and demanding the lawsuit be dismissed.

But if a judge does not dismiss Fratrick’s lawsuit, according to court documents, Franklin demands a ruling that the intergovernmental cooperation agreement is binding and that the district must buy the Ryan Creek interceptor.

The ICA lays out the terms for MMSD to buy the Ryan Creek interceptor sewer from Franklin. According to that agreement, MMSD will buy the sewer, a roughly five-mile long stretch of pipe connecting mains under 124th Street to mains under Ryan Road and 60th Street, by 2031. MMSD will start making payments next year and will pay Franklin back the $25.7 million principal of a state loan used to build the sewer as well as 20 years’ worth of interest, which the state estimates to be about $9.6 million.

If MMSD did not buy the interceptor, the city would have to repay the state loan itself.

The agreement between Franklin and MMSD gives the district the authority to explore taxing all Franklin residents, regardless of whether they could connect to the sewer, as a condition of buying the Ryan Creek interceptor.

But what would happen after that exploration is not laid out in the ICA.

According to Fratrick’s answer to the city’s cross-claim, whether Franklin acted illegally or negligently remains a matter for a court to determine.

About Beth Kevit, [email protected]

Beth Kevit is the Milwaukee city beat reporter and also covers real estate. She can be reached at [email protected] or 414-225-1820.

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